Say, here’s a wrinkle I didn’t notice on my first pass through House Joint Resolution 5003, Representative Jon Hansen’s latest chipping-away at our initiative rights. Rep. Hansen (R-25/Dell Rapids) wants to require a three-fifths vote of the public on any initiated constitutional amendment or law that would impose or increase taxes or fees or require the state to spend $10 million or more over the first five years of enactment. Rep. Hansen, of course, is part of the larger Republican push to reduce our ability to govern ourselves and to remove checks on the authority of the Legislature.
To ensure passage of his three-fifths rule, Rep. Hansen proposes that we not wait until the 2022 general election, when we would expect most ballot measures to come to a vote. Rather than take his chances with the full and fully engaged electorate, Hansen wants to submit HJR 5003 to a more favorable subset of the electorate, Republican primary voters. HJR 5003 specifies that the vote on the three-fifths rule would take place at the 2022 primary. That ballot would still be open to every registered voter, regardless of party affiliation. Even Democrats and Independents living in districts with no Democratic primary—or for that matter, voters in districts with no candidates at all on the primary ballot—could still come to the courthouse in the spring and vote on HJR 5003. But Hansen knows as well as the rest of us that most voters come to the polls for candidates, and the voters who come to the polls in June will mostly be Republicans who will see the warning about taxes and spending on the ballot and say, “Three-fifths? Heck, oughta be ten tenths!” and mark YES on HJR 5003.
Placing HJR 5003 on the 2022 primary ballot would allow voters to approve it to take effect on July 1, 2022, which would mean that any taxing or threshold-spending initiatives placed on the 2022 general election ballot would face that three-fifths vote requirement. Jon, you clever devil. You’re making sure that if Amendment A’s despondent supporters try to come back with a replacement amendment to put marijuana back into our constitution, they’ll have to increase their vote total from the 55% they got last year to 60%.
Republicans usually hate early voting. But when they can get an early vote on their preferred amendments to ensure a hearing from a more Republican electorate, the earlier, the better!
HJR 5003 comes to House State Affairs early this morning.